The Art Of Henna
The Art of Henna
To say the last couple of weeks in my family had been somewhat hectic would be a bit of an understatement! That’s because my cousin got married, and if you know anything about Indian weddings, you know just how stressful but fun they can be!
The planning had obviously been going on for months, from the clothes to the food to the venues. However being the fashionista that I am, one part of the customs and traditions that caught my eye was that of the henna application.
The Bride Getting Her Henna Done
Once the wedding was in full swing, and the henna (mehndi) was applied I started thinking, why is henna application such an integral part of Indian, Pakistani and Arab cultures? Where did it originate from, and why are there different colours and styles of henna?
Indian Henna Style (Image courtesey of www.mehndi9.blogspot.ae)
Heritage of Henna
According to Silknstone.com, “The art of henna has been practised for over 5000 years in Pakistan, India, Africa and the Middle East.”
Due to the fact that “henna has natural cooling properties” (www.Silknstone.com,) people of the desert have been using it for centuries in order to cool down their bodies. They would, in fact, make a paste of the henna and soak their palms and soles of their feet in it, to feel ventilated.
They would feel the hennas cooling sensation throughout their bodies, as long as it remained on their skin. As the henna started to fade away, it left patterns on the skin surface which led to the idea of it being used for decorative purposes.
In the ancient Egyptian times, mummies were adorned with henna designs and it is also documented that Cleopatra herself used henna for beautification purposes.
“Henna was not only a popular adornment for the rich but the poor, who could not afford jewellery, so they used it to decorate their bodies as well.” (www.Silknstone.com.)
The different Henna Colours
According to my research, there are 3 different types of henna colour and the main reason for that is the plant extract that they’re made out of. One of the 3 varieties is called Natural Henna. This is what most Indian and Pakistani people use during celebrations, the colour is a rich red brown (www.wikipedia.com.)
Neutral Henna does not change the colour of hair. This is not henna powder; it is usually the powder of the plant Senna Italica or closely related Cassia and Senna species (www.wikipedia.com.)
Black Henna is often derived from Indigo. It may also contain unlisted dyes and chemicals such as para-phenylenediamine (PPD), which can stain skin black quickly.
The name arose from imports of plant-based hair dyes into the West in the late 19th century. Partly fermented, dried indigo was called black henna because it could be used in combination with henna to dye hair black (www.wikipedia.com.)
The different styles of Henna
According to www.hennartconnection.com, the art form of henna decorating has been practised in Northern Africa, the Middle East, Southern Asia, and Europe and has been used by Hindus, Sikhs, Jews, Muslims, Christians, Pagans, and others; and varies from region to region. Varying designs have a different meaning for members of each culture, such as good health, fertility, wisdom, protection and spiritual enlightenment. The most popular traditional use is tied closely with weddings and bridal preparation; these designs tend to be the most ornate, covering the most area. Depending on the culture, men may use it as well as women, usually for more symbolic purposes; masculine designs are generally very basic, simple and small in design.
Arabic henna designs are abstract and less dense with designs featuring graceful, usually large, Floral and vine patterns on the hands and feet.
Indian mehndi involves fine, thin lines for lacy, floral, paisley patterns with lines and dots; dense patterns covering entire hands, forearms, feet and shins.
African henna patterns, usually simple, bold, large geometric shapes and designs with abstract symbols.
Henna today, in non-traditional American & European pop-culture, is practised by men and women alike. Mainstream America remains fascinated with body adornment and beauty practices from other cultures.
There is even something called UV and even white henna these days!
So the question now is which style/styles and colour/colours are you going to be trying out.